Syrian Orthodox Church Bombay Palm Sunday - CC via Wikimedia Commons/Masalai
CAIRO - 7 May 2019: “I wish all the year is winter” is a sentence said by Priest Dawood Lameay in his preach at Mar Marcus Church in Misr al-Gadida neighborhood to encourage girls to preserve their demureness.
The preach that stirred up controversy was the beginning of a campaign called “The Daughter of the King” adopted by Priest Gabriel Moheb of Virgin Bedmaris Church in Minya with “The Daughter of the King only Dresses in a Royal Way” as a slogan.
The campaign calls upon the girls attending church to wear modest long-sleeve clothes in summer. The campaign were accepted by the girls who are a part of a conservative society in Upper Egypt. In turn, Priest Moheb expressed his happiness with that response.
Priest Lameay said before Easter that he is sad that some women dress inappropriately in church. He said the reason is the absence of fear from God. The priest questioned how women put on such revealing clothing while the angels stand humbled in prayers covering their eyes and legs in the presence of God.
FILE - Priest Dawood Lameay
“I feel that every man who lets his wife dress like that will be punished by God...Some households are ruined because of such mistakes...Instead of making God happy with our appreciation, we seek people’s attention,” Priest Lameay said adding that the Evangel mandates that women cover their hair while praying.
Expert in Christian Affairs Kamal Zakher commented saying that the society plays a role in shaping the values of individuals. He explained that those who launched such campaign do not know how to communicate with the people of the church and how to teach them. They are dissociated from the youth’s reality. Such calls unveil the church’s need to develop and modernize the curricula taught to clerics at monasteries and the School of Theology.
Social media users shared a photo of a banner hung up in a church that reads a verse saying “Don’t you know that our bodies are the organs of the Christ? It is written below it’s prohibited to put on any of the garments indicated. Those include “revealing wedding dresses, revealing dresses, inappropriate dresses, short skirts, revealing T-shirts, sleeveless shirts, shorts, and punctured jeans.”
Researcher in Christian Affairs Ishaq Ibrahim said that statements and instructions pertinent to demureness are not a problem in their core. The issue is with judging people based on their appearance and accusing women who do not stick to demureness of not being religious and sometimes of bad conduct. Ibrahim added that paying too much attention to the appearance of people comes at the expense of teaching them religious values and spirituality.
Ibrahim said that judging people according to their appearance is similar to what the Salafists do when they blame women for crimes and wrong practices assumed by men. He added that there is a portion of Christian clerics who were influenced to a great extent by the oriental and Islamists' culture with regard to women. The justifications for those opinions are more social than religious, Ibrahim said. The researcher explained that clerics generally prefer using intimidation, warning and banning rather than opening dialogues and encouraging people to stick to religious values out of a true desire and free will.
That incident is not the first in the Coptic Church as a similar crisis was caused by Bishop Youanis of Asyut when he banned girls from attending weddings in the church because they wore what he perceived as revealing dresses. The bishop instructed to make available cloaks for the girls to put on before entering the church. However, the bishop had to repeal the decision that was faced by rejection from the girls and their families who considered the matter as a personal insult to them.
Additional reporting by Sara Allam